Close to home adventures

I’ve finally reached 20 weeks pregnant, wooot!!! Halfway there! We had the mid way ultrasound yesterday to check all the measurements and growth and baby is moving along normally, always good to hear that from doctors!

I love my new spare tire cover!

This also means that I’ve reached the point in which I’m voluntarily grounding myself from riding; the risk of a fall from Flash is fairly low but not zero, and as this isn’t my baby my comfort level is lower. So, we’re back to hiking and today the sun shone so out we went!

Happy dog, starving horse

An awesome local group is gathering and bringing some old trails back to life that just so happen to be a 10 minute haul from my barn! I was able to load Flash, unload, shove his boots on, make him carry my stuff (some adjustments still needed there), go for a two mile hike and make it home as the kid got off the bus.

Trail building: downhill edition

Flash was super well behaved except for the occasional reminder to not trip over me (personal spaaaaace!) and even when we saw other horses he didn’t scream for them. He did get a bit fast heading back to the trailer, so we took an out and back detour on a single track trail and he settled back down.

Awesome viewpoint

A beautiful hike and some exploring in a new place on a sunny day with a good dog and a starving blonde pony…it helps a great deal! Now to pack the truck for our camping shakedown trip to Battle Ground Lake tomorrow!

Pony chooses food over views naturally
Nom nom

Bluebird Day

I received hard news from my boss on Friday: a coworker, a senior manager I supported and was mentoring me a bit, was found dead in her home.

For this and various other reasons, I desperately needed a good day, a smooth day when I didn’t have to worry about a million things and everything just moved…easily.

Today delivered and I seriously lucked out in every way. Truck and trailer are both roadworthy, sealed, organized and basically as good as they get. Flash loaded more or less willingly (I’ve mostly accepted that he’ll load cause he’s a good guy and not because trailering is fun or neutral for him), and I got zero traffic up to Washington.

I had managed to snag a mid Monday lesson with a new trainer, Rebekah L., And boy both she and the facility she trains out of were definitely worth the drive! The sun was shining and it was warm enough for Kade and I to have a picnic lunch in the grass while we relaxed from the drive.

Rebekah is the first new trainer I’ve introduced myself to in years, and this time with my own horse! My main goal for the spring is to get Flash and I to a solid, well matched place, so we can pick up from there when I come back from pregnancy recovery in August. Might as well make the most of our arena time while we’re stuck there, and today’s outdoor arena was just… breathtaking. I don’t go for hyperbole much, but the sun was shining, the views of the hills were beautiful, and the footing was fantastic. I just wish it were a tad bit closer and we’d be there all the time!

Flash trailered well, relaxed while we waited and I tacked fuzzbutt up, and only called once to the horses all around him. He had a few opinions under saddle, but nothing to budge even my out of fitness butt. Rebekah gave me one main pointer that I was desperately needing-carry your hands! Huh, so that’s why I lurch forward at the posting trot, my hands were way too low!

Flash and I have tons of work to do, but there’s a well trained, happy partner under his blonde, cookie hogging exterior and I’m more excited than ever to bring it out. Good boy Flash, very good boy 🙂

Oregon Trails Summit

Along with a few other lucky ladies, I was privileged to attend the Oregon Trails Summit in Bend last weekend. PNER sent me to talk trails, but I brought a lot of past experience as both a trail user and stakeholder (I worked on trails with Northwest Youth Corps for six summer seasons, as well as two seasons as a State Park Ranger). It was wonderful to network and discuss issues with nerds who speak my language, a complicated polyglot of passion, frustration and issues between Federal, State and private land managers, industry leaders, and coalition groups from every corner of the state. As a passionate dirt bag, equestrian, and overall outdoor geek, it was heady brew.
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I also go to visit Smith Rock State Park for the first time!!!
Even with the fun and empowering discussions, presentations and emotional keynote speech to fill the weekend, there was a shadow cast over the whole thing for me. I’ll get to the specifics of the sessions I attended shortly, but I’d like to address what to me has become the elephant in the room: PNER is no longer the place for me.
This PNER trip to the Summit was spearheaded by Julie Serres, on behalf of the Trails Committee. She eventually chose not to come, for her own reasons born of frustration, and after seeing several back and forth comments through this member’s page, I am also choosing to bow out of paying dues next year to an organization that does not walk it’s talk of late. Oregon Equestrian Trails and Back-country Horseman’s Association both had a large presence at the summit, from leading a horse and bike workshop, having a small booth with handout materials, to being on several panel discussions. I feel PNER could have either been a larger presence, or gone with a clearer directive to “learn how we can give back to our beloved trails, and be more active in the trail maintenance community.” Without Julie there, it felt like our group lacked cohesion.
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Also got to ride an awesome little war mare, Dalai Lama!
The first session I sat in on was regarding the new technology known as “e-bikes”, where I learned a great deal about what they actually are. The discussion was wide ranging, but boils down to what kind of experience e-bike users are looking for. Federal land managers have classed them with OHVs and other motorized vehicles, when most e-bikes are no louder or that much faster than non-motorized bikes. Oregon State has a more flexible, while still limited, interpretation for basic, pedal assisted e-bikes, the kind that have no throttle (you have to be pedaling to keep moving). For now, though, most e-bikes remain quite expensive, but as this market expands look to see more of them on the trails. From an equestrian’s perspective, the main worry is about speed on trails designed to allow bikes, whether motorized or non, to rapidly gain speed or pop out of nowhere, limiting reaction times for all parties. We covered built environment fixes (ie designing multi-use trails to slow all parties down through specific trail features), administration fixes (ie bikes only uphill, bikes and horses allowed on alternate days, etc), and simply building new, bike only trails while still maintaining equestrian and hiker access on existing trails (not a zero sum game; bikers get trails that cater to them, while equestrians don’t loose access to trails they’ve traditionally had access to.)
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Downtown Bend is fantastic!
The next session was Forwarding Signature Trails (think like the PCT, only Oregon specific). As a trail user, this was a fun and hugely informative session as to the hard leg work and cooperation goes into building trails and trail systems. Presenters included groups from Umatilla, Tualatin, and Southern Oregon. I was heartened to hear that with the exception of the Tualatin River Trail (which is heavily urban and not a fun place to ride anyway) all trails in this discussion included equestrians in their design and build processes (I can’t decide which I’m more excited to visit and ride someday, the Jack-Ash trail in Southern Oregon or the Joseph network near the Wallowa’s!)
This session, along with the Regional Trails breakout, covered a ton of ground on how to gather support, funding, and everything else needed to make trails a reality. Ideas, tips and tricks ranged from encouraging participation of volunteers, communicating effectively with different demographics, and making local media your friend. One very cool tidbit as a technology loving Millennial was QR codes on business cards and trail signs, where you can pair your GPS track from your favorite local trail to a larger regional database. This helps map where and how people are using local trails, in order to include them in the area’s overall trail plan.
The most interesting breakout was one which certainly requires more time, Resolving Trail Conflicts. I know Elayne’s write up is already up (she’s faster than I am!) and she came into this session with a much different perspective. For myself, I lean more democratic and have a wide range of views on trail usage, as I’ve built trails for all types of users (OHVs, horses, bikes, hikers only, multi-use, ADA) and have used trails in all sorts of different ways, though my primary use is from horseback (c’mon, who doesn’t agree that’s the best view?) The overall point I took out of this session was considering each user group’s desired trail experience. For the most part, user groups can “make it work” in relative harmony, minus outliers who ruin things for everybody, regardless of how they use the trails. The main beef comes both between OHV users and other groups, mainly due to the noise and speed being so much greater than any other group (bikers, hikers, kayakers, equestrians, etc. while they each have their own impact on trails, and minus run ins with mountain bikes and *gasp* piles of poop, don’t really impact each other in a huge, insurmountable way).
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So pretty…no desire to climb up like the two dozen climbers I passed!
Ultimately, it’s up to land managers to “build the table” and the responsibility of each user group to ensure they have a seat at that table, whether it be private, State or Federal lands in question. Ironing out issues of trail use, maintenance, new trails, emerging technologies and access take time, a buttload of patience, and empathy for other users, even if you hate what experience they might seek on trails. Each specialized organization, from PNER to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, can help maintain access to trails for all through a combination of education, encouraging volunteers, and reaching out to bring user groups together; from poker rides that include hikers, bikers and equestrians at the same event to special sponsored trail signs, it is possible to share trails in a sustainable way.
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This mare was a hoot and I can’t wait to ride her again someday!
The biggest question, now that we’ve presented what we’ve learned, is where PNER will take this information. Each rider uses some combination of private, State and Federal trails (I myself ride mostly on private timber lands kept open to equestrians through the good faith of the landowner, as well as Federal and State forests and parks when someone takes a horse for me out and about). OET and BCHA both have large, well organized service arms; OET sponsors several fantastic horse camps through annual work parties, specialized signage, and organized fundraising rides; BCHA is out there hauling tools and equipment into back country trails, supporting other trail organizations by hauling equipment, providing equestrian based expertise, and both organizations spend a good amount of time on educating an increasingly horse naive public about horses, equestrian issues and best practices when meeting horses on trails.
Based on Julie’s experiences of the past year to get a Trails Committee off the ground, is PNER even willing to become more of a service or education based organization? It’s one thing to have a booth at an equine trade show asking people to join our organization; it’s a whole other kettle of fish to ask those who do join to organize an educational poker ride, put in hours maintaining their local trails, or designing educational materials for other trail users.
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Definitely dragging the husband, kid and dog to this awful place someday…

Mrs. Morse

I started today single, and ended as a Mrs.

What does one say about ones wedding day, especially one whipped up in two weeks and held in a judge’s chambers on his lunch break?

I know two main things: our family and friends are rockstars all, for whom we are deeply and abiding grateful, and I love my new husband, the same but different as I did this morning.

I’m sure I will have new words as the shock and joy quiets, as we take our first steps in this old and weird and brand new tradition, but for now the sun shining on our day full of love is enough, and more than enough.

Dry Side Jaunt

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Two bridleless, three bareback & one horses first real camping season, Three Sisters behind us!

Last weekend was a perfect start to the riding and camping season, but it made me re-examine my equine priorities. My main goal for the past two years has been to train for and complete a 50 mile endurance ride. I obviously have to loose a few more pounds, seriously up my fitness to post 50 miles, and get over my first five miles of racing brain anxiety.

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Relax, sit deep, shoulders back, post to the movement…room for improvement, but a nice power trot!

Starting an endurance ride is deeply stressful for me, mainly because I’m usually on a horse I’ve only met a few times before, if I’m lucky. My most successful ride was last year at Klickitat with Jokker; I finished feeling like another 25 would be easy, albeit dusty, and I loved most every second of it. Any horse can feed off the energy of ride camp, dozens of horses high as kites and fit as cougars and ready to go. Problem is, I hate riding that high headed, upside down back when I just know I only have .1% of the horses attention, cause that’s when shit hits the fan.

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Camping with my current trainer and a few of her working students and friends was…amazingly relaxing. I had only one moment of stress, and it was based on my lack of fitness at keeping up at the canter/almost gallop, but by the end of the weekend I was riding bareback up to the viewpoint on the same horse. Ray and I really hit our grove this trip, and now I’m looking forward to the summer spent with this mostly easy going, occasionally surprising redhead.

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It was wonderful to lumber out of my cozy hammock where Cyrus and I had snuggled all night, sipping coffee in front of the fire and waiting for the sun to rise and the day to warm before we slowly tacked up and moseyed out of camp, no hollering or jigging required. We set our own speed, not quite completion speed but moving out more than we’ve been able to all winter.  Each horse had to have their moments of spring fever, cantering in place, spinning, side passing down the trail but those were mostly in good fun, no one bolted or screamed or disagreed too badly.

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There was plenty of time to chat, take awesome photos, revel in the dry and the sun and the open forest of the dry side. It was a good shake out for the season, testing equipment and rider’s legs and recovery times.

Cyrus even got to come along and see if he would make a good camp dog…he makes an excellent camp dog! He never strayed too far or ate too many weird things, he charmed all the other ladies, snuggled all night in the hammock with me, and even got to join in on the sunset ride to the viewpoint.

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That ride ended up with three of us riding bareback and two bridleless to boot! We soaked up the sun, huddled out of the wind, ate good food and drank just enough to relax and hit on every topic under the sun.

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I think I might like horse camping better than endurance, ya’ll. All the fun and horses and company, none of the stress! Many thanks to Terreka, Shannon, Verena & Stacy for an epic weekend!

Joy

I write this with joy in my heart. A tired joy, comfortable and welcome. I set everything aside yesterday and played hooky from work (using up leave time) to spend the day sans phone and any responsibilities with my son.

I can get too caught up in my goals, keeping the house clean, walking the dog, paying bills and all the rest of it and forget to enjoy the whip smart, silly kid I’m raising. I know a good chunk of the rest of the world can’t just turn things off for a day, but I can only live my life.

We spent the day in our swim gear at the Winds N Waves Waterpark, and it was quite simply one of our best days in a long stretch, and badly needed. We swam in the vortex pool, flew yelling down the water slides and relaxed in the crowded hot tub. Never once did I have to raise my voice or an eyebrow; we just hung out and enjoyed each other, only giggles, no cross words or chores.

On the drive home we were both quiet, sipping our Dutch Bros drinks and trying not to fall asleep. I was happy, and so was Kade. I was happy, without reservation or worry or anxiety.

I hadn’t realized how big the weight I’d been carrying as a result of my job in the psychiatric hospital has been. Now that I’m leaving, I can finally take a deep breath. Not only have I turned in my two weeks notice, but the job I’m going to is a complete 180 from the hospital. I’m supporting my old boss and doing the work I’m discovering I’m best at, logistics and organizing and making things smooth and straight forward. It’s a relief to be working for someone who thinks I kick ass, instead of those who hate the change I bring.

Joy is also tasty homemade food with best friends, hitting up the nickel arcade and super tasty ice cream to announce and celebrate our upcoming elopement.

Life is rainy but good!

Mr. 2Spooky

(Setting the scene: sitting in my beloved Emerald Queen, still at work, waiting for the World’s Best future husband to come rescue me and my non independent woman self from a super flat tire, and a spare tire I can’t get out from under the vehicle cause I’ve never practiced on this truck yet).

After looting the local 4H tack sale with two far fetched friends on Saturday, I put the new to me tack to use on Sunday.

My proudest score of Saturday was a almost brand new Equipedic pad for $100, which is totally worth boasting about and bonus, Ray had no issues with it!

A still relatively new to me riding partner and I headed out for a long slow ride, as we’re aiming to turtle Grizzly together. I have always ridden with others much more experienced than I, both with endurance and the local trails. Yesterday I got to be the ‘senior’ riding partner, and we never once got lost! She mentioned several suggestions I had that I’ve picked up from others (hopping off every 10 miles or so to pee and stretch and adjust tack, letting horses graze for a few minutes every so often, and walking the last bit I to camp/the barn) were super helpful, so thanks to all those who’ve instilled good habits in me!

While it was a good 12 mile ride (no rain!) I was reminded once again that Ray is a different horse than super laid back, goofy Jokker.

Mr. I’m actually a teenager spent a good chunk of the ride just super casually glancing around, going full giraffe at random moments, and not quite fully jumping sideways at Every. Single. Culvert. I rode every moment of the ride, working to not let my emotions rule because Mr. I’m not actually trying to dump you tried to pretend he was a super spooky four year old.

I kept the image of mile 18, trotting easily down trail halfway back to camp and a well earned completion award and roaring bonfire in mind as I again reminded Mr. I go so fast than no, you can’t bolt all the way home, and please don’t tailgate the peeing mare.

Rather than being terrified, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to match the horse, and not get sucked into his attempts to weasel out of work. He did eventually accept the notion and we settled down and enjoyed ourselves (minus the redhead eating culverts).

Lessons learned: definitely going to try a Kimberwick or at least a running martingale next time; he has a habit of sticking his nose straight up when he disagrees with the riders chosen speed. “Neener neener, can’t tell me what to do now!” Shortening my stirrups was both good and bad; my seat was much better, but it tired my right ankle our faster and forced me to constantly reset my bad balance (something I’m hoping Celena can help me with at her clinic in two more weeks!)

My proudest moment was also the scariest; we were cantering back home and I could feel myself tipping forward over his neck, reins not short enough to do any good, and if he’s stumbled or shied I would have been dumped, just like I fell off Reno at Grizzly last year. Fortunately this year I heard some old trainer’s loud ass voice shout ‘Sit on your ASS!’ so I did and we came back to a more controlled canter that I cowgirl whooped my way through cause yeah, super badass enough to correct that mistake this time!

The only thing I really need to work with Mr. Fastest Possible Speed is rating, which I know will be worse the first five miles out of ride camp. My twin goals are dialing in his bit/martingale combo and working on my core strength so I can keep with him for those long miles.

We can do this and we can enjoy doing so, even more when the sun decides to shine! Hows everyone else’s conditioning coming?

Wiggle butts

If you hate being spammed by lots of happy dog and kid photos, or wish to ignore my search for the perfect dog, or point out that there are more important things to be focusing on these days….that last may be true, but today all I can focus on is trying to make life a little better for my own corner of the world, and raising my son to be a helper.

A few years ago, I had the joy of being able to foster several boxers until they were adopted, and when Tom and I moved into together we made the agreement to wait to adopt a dog until we a.) Had a house with a yard and B.) Were fairly job solvent (as much as can be in this crazy world).

Help me bring this scene back to my world!

We’ve been renting our current house for a year, just signed a lease for another and gained landlord approval, and I was finally able to work my way up to a permanent job with the State! I’ve been on several careful shopping sprees to father supplies, lectured the kid on the rules and responsibilities of the dog (and planned matching kid and dog Halloween costumes, what else but Pokemon?). The only thing we lack….Is a dog!

So, internet, Facebook friends, and other awesome peoples, please help us keep a look out for our perfect dog! Since we both work full time, have a giant white cat, and this will mostly be a kid companion, we are looking for an adult house trained dog, preferably a boxer as I can’t resist a wiggle butt! We do have applications into several local rescues, but this is spreading the net even wider.

Thank you all, and go snorgle your fuzzies or wiggly kids or teddy bears!

Escape the smoke

After the topsy turvey summer we’ve had, neither of us could face a crazy holiday weekend of travel, even for horse training. So I skipped a farm visit, and today my little family of three (minus His Royal Fuzzy Whiteness Wilson) mosied over them that hills to the beach.

This lazy day of wandering was exactly what we all needed, quiet time together and an escape from the awful heat and wildfire smoke filling the Willamette valley again today.

We hit Lincoln City, which was reliably packed, enjoyed a nice lunch at McMenamin’s, and found perfect high winds and few people (although still enough kids for Kade to play with) at Bob Straub State Park in Pacific City.

Tom had a blast flying his high tech kites in the wind, busting a steady 15-23mph, and being that special kind of puzzled only engineers get when he couldn’t figure out why I kept crashing the kite. (Hint: you work the kite lines the exact opposite way from reins, which I’ve spent the better part of my life learning and teaching!)

The large pack of kids digging energetically in the sand taught Kade how to find shrimp; we took turns burying each other in the sand; hit pause for a snuggle break to warm up my zero body fat kid; wrote a little of the stress into my journal; and relaxed, watching Kade play, Tom fly kites, on a beautiful sunny windy smoke free beach. I managed (barely) not to cry, out of gratefulness that we live where we can safely steal a day like this, peaceful and together and happy, far from the stresses and strains and sadness of the world for awhile.

A Small Step

As I mentioned earlier, I love bike riding. It is, for me, the perfect combination of workout and reward. My calves and thighs are almost rocks, I get to see quite a bit more via wheels than my own feet, and I get a much larger sense of accomplishment from a bike ride than anything else (other than literally any horse related pursuit, obviously). I’ve been focusing on stretching out my tiny comfort zone bubble via bike this year; I started bike commuting in the middle of our January freeze, and more or less kept that up for the year; I’m discovering some new routes around my town; and I’m considering an easy bike camping route later in the fall, when the smoke dies down and things aren’t so…firey.

(I just had a random thought: generally, our vehicles earn names ie, my truck is the Emerald Queen; I’ve been biking on my Gary Fisher birthday bike for 8 months now, and it’s still just “Gary”…weird).

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On Sunday, I’m jumping into an organized bike ride, something I’ve never done before; The Tour de Lab is basically a bar crawl, via bike, in the morning, through inner Portland neighborhoods that I’m mostly familiar with. I’m not ready for the elevation change of the 40 mile ride (at least at any speed faster than basically walking) so I’m doing the 15 mile ride, which I know is well within my abilities…except for the 2000 odd other people I’ll have to deal with!

Thank you Tom for encouraging me to do this, will you help me tune up my bike tonight? I can’t wait to earn some puppy ears and finish line booze and hot dogs!

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